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Home-Grown Baseball Stars Brandon Crawford and Marcus Semien

These Bay Area shortstops stake their claim as the local cream of the crop.


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Marcus Semien // Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics

Whether your allegiance lies with the green and gold or the orange and black, East Bay baseball fans relish knowing that two of our homegrown stars—Pleasanton’s Brandon Crawford and El Cerrito’s Marcus Semien—are the starting shortstops for the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s.

It’s certainly not the first time Bay Area–born ballplayers have suited up for the local nine: Oakland A’s Manager Bob Melvin, a Cal man, played for the Giants before skippering the A’s. But what’s exceptional about this pair is that they aren’t bench players­—the kind that tend to bounce from team to team. Both Crawford and Semien have established themselves among the premier slugging shortstops in the sport, and it isn’t hard to imagine both players digging their spikes into our home turf for years to come.

Crawford, the two-time World Series champ and Silver Slugger- and Gold Glove-winning shortstop for the Giants, grew up an avid fan of the Barry Bonds–era teams. A top prospect coming out of Pleasanton’s Foothill High, he started on the baseball team as a freshman at UCLA—no easy feat. The Giants snatched him in the fourth round of the 2008 draft.

And while his hitting was slower to develop than his defense, Crawford’s incredible athleticism was undeniable from the get-go. In 2011, the Giants called him up to the Majors and set in motion what has been an upward trajectory: The next year brought a World Series win followed by another in 2014. Last year, it was an All-Star selection, and the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards. This off-season, the slick-fielding shortstop, who is now widely considered one of the best players in the National League, signed a six-year, $75 million contract that’ll keep him in San Francisco through 2021.

Semien’s East Bay roots run just as deep. His parents met at UC Berkeley, where they were both students. (Semien’s father, Damien, was a wide receiver on the football team.) Semien was an all-star Little League player in El Cerrito and then starred at Saint Mary’s College High in Berkeley. Following in his parents’ footsteps to Cal, Semien was part of the 2011 miracle baseball team that reached the College World Series and staved off the program’s impending cancellation.

That alone might be enough to qualify Semien as an East Bay baseball hero. But of course, his story is still being written: After being drafted by the Chicago White Sox and reaching the Major Leagues, Semien was traded in 2014 to Oakland in a deal involving pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

After a promising but uneven first season with the A’s—Semien smacked 15 home runs but led the league in errors—the East Bay native has developed into one of the most promising shortstops in the league: By the end of July, Semien’s 22 home runs were the most among American League shortstops, a position not known for power numbers.  

Even the shortstops marvel at their unique status as hometown heroes, having defied the odds, and making it to the big-league teams they rooted for as Little Leaguers.

“Having two guys from the Bay Area playing for the local teams—that’s pretty cool,” says Crawford.

And Semien, undoubtedly the player with the biggest local cheering contingent at most A’s games, is equally cognizant of the charmed circumstances of his new life.

“Every time we take the field, we want to reflect on where we are,” Semien says, “and look out into the crowd and realize that there are all those people who came out to watch us play. And we need to do everything that we can to stay here.”


 

Who’s More Bay?

As far as determining which one of our two homegrown heroes represents the best of the Bay, we’ll let their play on the field do the talking. But when it comes to figuring out who’s the most Bay? Well, we asked both players—as well as some of the people who know them best—for the local scoop.

 

Brandon Crawford // ©2015 S.F. Giants

Big-League memories

Crawford: “I was [at AT&T Park] for Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run in 2001, but the one I really remember was one of my favorite at-bats: Bonds versus [Los Angeles Dodgers Cy Young closer] Eric Gagne. Bonds worked the count to 2-2, pulled a 99-mph pitch foul into the water, and hit a 99-mph pitch out to center. My parents still have season tickets in those seats, Section 126.” —Brandon Crawford

Semien: “I would catch BART from El Cerrito to the Coliseum and get to watch a big-league game for a pretty decent price. I’d walk right in and see some of the best American League talent, whether it was the Yankees when they were at their peak or the Red Sox with Manny Ramirez and all those guys.” —Marcus Semien

 

Childhood heroes

Crawford: “He usually reverts to Royce Clayton, the Giants’ shortstop when we were growing up. He always loved playing shortstop. We’d play in the backyard, and if you hit it into the ivy, it was a home run. He’d go through all the Giants’ players, since he got to pick first. I’d be the A’s.” —Amy Crawford, sister

Semien: “I’d have to say it was Barry Bonds, and Derek Jeter was his favorite shortstop. But he loved Barry Bonds—a lot of kids did. You can’t be ashamed to admit that now.” —Tracy White, mom

 

Favorite place to grab a bite

Crawford: “Back in Pleasanton, it’s probably Jim’s Country Style Restaurant, this breakfast and brunch place. We’ll go there on the weekends sometimes.”
—Brandon Crawford

Semien: “Growing up, I’d have to say Gordo [Taqueria] on Solano in Albany, Zachary’s [Chicago] Pizza in Berkeley, and Nation’s [Giant Hamburgers] in El Cerrito. That was open 24 hours.”—Marcus Semien

 

Biggest Bay Area giveaway

Crawford: “When we started dating at UCLA, it used to drive him crazy that I’d say ‘the 101, the 210, the 5.’ And it’d drive me crazy when he’d say ‘hella’ or ‘hecka.’ It’s the worst! So we made an agreement that I wouldn’t say ‘the’ and he wouldn’t say ‘hella.’ ” —Jalynne Crawford, wife

Semien: “Marcus actually doesn’t say hella. But he bleeds blue and gold. I was joking one day about what would happen if our children went to Stanford. I told him I’d be fine with it, of course. I’d wear a Stanford shirt. And he was like, ‘I’d support it, but you’d never catch me in Cardinal colors, not if my life depended on it.’ He’s a true blue—and so am I. But come on—Stanford’s an awesome school.” —Tarah Murrey, wife

 

Looking across the Bay

Crawford: “Semien’s a few years younger than me, so we never played against each other growing up. But you know, playing for your hometown team—I know from experience that it’s pretty awesome.” —Brandon Crawford

Semien: “I’ve watched him play since he was in college, when UCLA visited Cal. I was a high school senior, and he was a junior at UCLA. Right away, I noticed how smooth he was out there at short—that was his best tool. He’s a winner. You put all those things together and the fact that he’s an East Bay kid playing in the Bay Area—he’s doing a great job.” —Marcus Semien

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